Monday, September 24, 2012

Sunday Manifesto: Be Outside

Here is the start of a project to make the worst day of the week, a little less worst.

After taking care of normal Sunday obligations I knew I want to spend the rest of the day outside, the weather was glorious.  The fallback outdoor quest in DC is always the monuments, to walk in the shadows of greatness. I attempted to catch a train heading into the city, but after 25 minutes of waiting and no trains, I decided to just drive into the city. I hate driving in DC. I can, I just hate it.  I figure that a Sunday wouldn’t be as bad as a work day. So, so wrong. As soon as I approached the National Mall, I remembered that it was National Book Festival Weekend, and the once one day festival was now two days.  There was not only no place to park, main streets, side  streets, but  there were also mobs of people everywhere. People, who not only slowly strolled through the crosswalks, but also looked at you like your desire to turn left (thus turning through the crosswalk) was the strangest and silliest thing ever.  With my little heart filling with rage towards these people and their stupid book bags, I admitted defeat and headed back home. But when my turn off came, I just kept driving. I didn’t know where I was going, but I knew that I wasn’t ready to go back to the awkwardness of my house to sit quietly in my room until it was dark enough to go to sleep. I just couldn’t.  So I drove and drove and drove and ended up at Manassas National Battlefield.

Now, in Virginia, you are almost always in a Civil War Battlefield. And it is important to remember that Virginia was a Confederate state. I have visited Civil War sites both north and south of the Mason-Dixon and the terminology is surprisingly, or maybe not so surprisingly, different.  Because I was within VA borders,  the battleground I visited is always and only referred to as Manassas. If I was up North, the battles fought here would be known as the battles at Bull Run. Because many battles were fought in open fields, routinely, the Confederacy favored naming battles after the nearest town, hence Manassas, while the Union favored naming battles after geographic landmarks, hence, Bull Run, which  is a tributary steam of the Potomac River, that flows through the land.  

If you arrive at Manassas before 5pm then you should go inside the Visitor’s Center and pay the 3 dollars entrance fee, talk to the knowledgeable and charming National Park staff, use the restrooms, and watch the orientation film. The buildings, including the Visitor Center and historical buildings are all closed and locked at 5pm, but the park is open until sunset, thus you don’t have to pay the entrance fee after 5pm, but you should really support the NPS.

I walked the “Henry Hill Walking Tour” which is about a mile loop around the land with educational signs along the way, mostly telling the story of the First Battle of Manassas (July1961), which is considered the first major land battle of the US Civil War.

I can’t figure out if it is ironic or poetic that former battlefields seem to become some of the most peaceful places. As I walked, I thought about how war becomes peace. In one day, 151 years ago, 5,000 people were killed on this ground, and now it is so calm and beautiful. How does that happen? How does the land, the physical world, heal from such trauma?   And then I let  my mind wander, which what usually happens in the outdoors,  and think about how does internal conflict become peace. The wars that don’t shake the ground or echo with gunshot;  sickness, grief, addiction, the daily battles with our demons. Can those lives become beautiful and calm? Hopefully that healing doesn’t take 151 years.  But it probably still takes time.  But these battlegrounds also serve as reminders and witnesses that battles, win or lose, do end. War does end. And peace is possible, even after all this.  BOOM. Put that on a Hallmark card.

And thus was my Sunday School for the day.

And now, can we discuss the little girl that had a bunny on leash?  Ok, keep rabbits as pet, whatever, but to bring one on a road trip and put it on a leash? I don’t get this.  

All pictures were taken with my little Canon point and shoot and except for a little cropping on 2 of them , they are completely unedited. It was that gorgeous of a day. 

1 comment :

  1. Gorgeous colors. We've been doing the same, taking Sunday outings and exploring new country vistas.